NABC Diaries - the trap

My room-mate, Anirban, recently attended the "North American Bengali Conference" which happened over the July 4th weekend. In a way, he was "invited" to this august assembly: he was roped in as a volunteer (He insists it was he who had offered his services voluntarily). He has started chronicling his experiences from the conference on his new blog, called "Anirban Ubacho: অনির্বাণ উবাচ". If you are a Bengali, please pause reading this post right now, and head over to that one. For those of you not familiar with the nuances and innuendos that one can slyly put across through my mother tongue, here is a rough attempt to translate the first post into English. And believe me, as I even approach this task, I sometimes wish I could just plug in that little Bengali word here or quote that little idiom there to express myself. Note that this is not a translation by the letter: I've taken certain creative liberties myself. However, if you feel offended by anything written below, you know I have faithfully translated that section word by word from the original and you know who to sue. :D
NABC Diaries: the trap

When a creature of such momentous talent as the lazy Bengali (and that too an NRI software engineer) sits around at a table discussing the IPL or the latest recession over cups of tea, his biggest philosophical cogitation is best described as "live easy, take it easier". And in one of those ironies which God designs picture perfect, such people are always spotted by extremely industrious philanthropic busybodies who've lost their bearing, otherwise known as the NABC central leadership command. NABC, by the way, stands for North American Bengali Conference (the Bengalis call it the "bongo"-sammelan). I keep repeating this lest I forget the full name. Although, I don't think I'll particularly regret losing this nugget of information.

This year, an ancient Bengali organization from the Bay Area of California, known as "প্রবাসী" (Probasi, the expatriates) were in charge. In the US, anything over 25 years old qualifies as historical and by those standards, this particular organization definitely reaches par at antediluvian. A few members of said organization had even quit their jobs in the past six months to ensure the success of this (ad)venture. One feels confident  that the supreme sacrifice of these gentlemen for their fellow Bengalis shall one day be juxtaposed over heated discussions and cups of hot tea against that of Rabindranath Tagore renouncing his knighthood.

A local acquaintance had informed me that there was a "food trial" going on for the NABC. As a Bengali, I consider it my moral responsibility to attend any such food trials and therefore showed up there post haste. It turned out, a particular South Indian restaurant was given the contract of preparing traditional Bengali food. The new cookbook that was produced for them had a particular sentence cirled in red and double-underlined. It said, "If you substitute the coconut with poppy seeds (পোস্ত) in any South Indian recipe, it will immediately be hailed as traditional Bengali cuisine". This, it seemed, the proprietor had took to heart. And of course, the Bengali needs his fish. Therefore, said restaurant owner had escalloped a certain spicy curry of catfish which failed to appease most of the room. Half of them had actually tasted a traditional Bengali freshwater fish curry before and the other half were still shaking their heads as vigorously in disapproval; it was pretty hard to tell who was who. Due to certain "unforeseen complications" during the preparation of the paneer curry, it had appeared at the bin mentioned "Paneer curry" without the paneer in it. A swan in all its majesty can drink just the milk out of a dilute solution of milk and water. The few people who had reached the venue early had reached an exact level of spiritual enlightenment by successfully extracting the meatballs out of the potato-meatball curry. Of course, in the abject self-repentment of this act, they had now turned their attention to the few boxes of sweets and were now trying to drown their depression through sugar syrups.

The remnants of the food that remained at the buffet had to suffice for the $10 I had paid to get hold of a plate. I came to know that the actual chef who was to be flown in from Kolkata had been denied a visa. This apparently had not surprised anybody who has been to past NABC-s. Which now begged the bigger question: who was the chief instructor in the kitchen tonight, then? It turned out that a certain Rakhi-di had been specially flown in from Houston to take the reins of the wild horses in the kitchen. Her clothing was still a little 'airy' to disaffect the heat from the kitchen. A lot of those who were loquacious in their praise of that night's dinner were definitely thinking either "I probably wouldn't have regretted missing this trial" or "At least this is better than what my wife cooks".

One must strike while the iron is hot and therefore I was requested to volunteer at the conference just as things were wrapping up that night. Of course, the silent fine print said that the food still wasn't free during the conference and I had to pay and register. But the spicy catfish in my stomach decreed against any sudden attempts at running away. I signed up to be a volunteer at the North American Bengali Conference: I had stepped into the trap.


  1. ei comment-ta bangla-tei korbo! :) friday te shokal bela lab-e boshe "weekend-eshe-gechhe" erokom ekta amej anubhob korte korte jokhon post-ta porlam(tomar onubaad ebong tomar bondhur original version) tokhon besh moja laaglo :)

    tobe amar mone holo, shesher para-r onubaad-ta jodi otota literally na korte tahole aro humorous feel-ta thaakto.. just my take on it.. overall kintu besh bhaloi laaglo porte :)

  2. Now I would have to learn Bangla. The translation is wonderful and I can only imagine what fun reading the original would have been.
    Thank you for bringing this translation to us. Please convey my compliments to the writer please.

  3. Tanwistha, ooh I'm so glad it helped. Thik bolechho, jodio, maybe I could have changed the last paragraph a little.

    Mampi, hehe... thanks! Compliments duly conveyed! :)

  4. What pieces of humor man !

    "In the US, anything over 25 years old qualifies as historical and by those standards, this particular organization definitely reaches par at antediluvian"

    "If you substitute the coconut with poppy seeds (পোস্ত) in any South Indian recipe, it will immediately be hailed as traditional Bengali cuisine"

    "At least this is better than what my wife cooks"

    Definitely brrings a smile on my face on yet another gloomy working Tuesday!

  5. Ships, most of these are copied out of my room-mate's post directly. But yeah, they're funny! :D

  6. hi sudipta. you got a great blog.. can u help me for promoting my blog like you...hope you dont mine..

  7. Jimmy, Sorry about not responding for so long. Yes of course I could do my bit, if not dispensing free gyaan. Send me an email!


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